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Skyline Drive is especially suited for motorcycle rides. (Photo by Dillon Malay)

Twin Ports Rides

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Randy Charnley first found out about Duluth’s “temperature inversion” when he rode his motorcycle up East 11th Ave.

“Around 10th or 11th Street, suddenly I can’t see a thing,” he said. “My windshield, my visor and my glasses all fogged off at once. I had to wobble over to the side of the road and start cleaning everything off.”

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He rides an ’85 Yamaha Maxim 700, a solid bike but not one designed for long road trips, as the ride gets uncomfortable after a few hours, he said. He knows people who spend $35,000 on a new Harley every two years, but these days his ambitions are more modest.

Charnley has been riding for about 20 years. While he used to do 4,000 miles a year, heading out in spring as soon as the temperature hit a balmy 38 degrees, “now I go out when it’s 75,” he said.

Sometime he rides with friends, but the best situation is “my wife and I and a beautiful day,” he said.

He remembers when he got his motorcycle endorsement, the tests were done on the streets of Duluth rather than in a parking lot, like they are now. “You’d drive out of sight and they could hear you but they couldn’t see what you were doing,” he said.

Sheldon Aubut has been riding motorcycles for 47 years. He likes Harleys, Suzukis, Hondas and Ossas. His current preference goes to Moto Guzzi, an Italian model relatively hard to find in the United States. “I like to be different,” he said.

He also prefers to ride with a sidecar, which can be used to haul cargo, people and dogs. His own dog has worn goggles as a passenger. “It’s too much fun,” he said.

From 1998 to 2010, Aubut organized the Wolf’s Head Rally, an annual motorcycle tour around Lake Superior, launching from Duluth. While there were often as many as 250 riders, the recession took its toll, as many had to sell their bikes or were no longer able to afford grand adventures. The post-9-11 rules also complicated travel to Canada. Although Wolf’s Head was discontinued, Aubut leaves the website up for individual riders who want to take the tour. (Go to wolfsheadrally.com.)

Dillon Malay has been riding dirt bikes since age 10. He’s been riding motorcycles on the street for six years. For the past four he’s ridden a ’77 Honda CB550 and, despite its age, it’s held up well. Since it was a common bike, parts are easy to obtain, especially on the internet. He took it out for its first ride of the year on April 24. All it took was a battery charge and four tries before it kicked on. But frigid weather made the ride brief, and soon it was back the garage.

He stores it in a garage rented by several other friends with motorcycles. Usually he prefers to just take it around Duluth. “I enjoy a good skyline ride,” he said. But he’s driven along back roads all the way to Brainerd.

Outside of Duluth, the region offers many beautiful rides. Up the North Shore on Hwy. 61 is the best known. You can go all the way to the Canadian border, or you can turn straight north and head into the wilderness.

Of special note is Hwy. 1, five miles northeast of Silver Bay. This takes you deep into Superior National Forest and the Sawtooth Mountains, all the way to Ely, 67 miles up the road. While most of it’s wilderness, there are patches of civilization with agreeably rustic bars and restaurants in Finland, 11 miles up the road from Hwy. 61, and Isabella, another 27 miles. Motorcycleroads.com notes there are “smooth blacktop for entire run, good twisties; just watch out for the autos and most corners are heavily wooded and no way to see what is ahead of you.”

Northwest Wisconsin also offers scenic routes along the lake or south through Pattison and Amnicon Falls state parks.

Douglas County has over five miles of single track off-highway motorcycle (OHM) trails which connect to a network of trails in Nemadji State Forest in Pine County, Minn. Although trails may be open, they can be susceptible to damage depending on day-to-day conditions. Riders are requested to stay off wet trails to protect them.

Douglas County OHM trails open on the summer ATV trail opening date which varies each year, typically late May, and close on October 31 annually.

For latest updates, go to douglascountywi.org or call 715-378-4528.

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